Abstract: The metropolitan planning strategy ‘Melbourne 2030’ was released in 2002 as a major step towards a low-carbon city and a counter to urban sprawl; it provides for intensification of land-use within an urban growth boundary focused on activity centres and transit-oriented development. It is now widely acknowledged that this policy has not been implemented and the growth boundary has been expanded substantially. A primary reason for this failure is the government’s fear of electoral backlash if Melbourne’s much-loved urban ‘character’ is transformed. There has been a lack of both capacity modeling to show how the existing fabric can be densified, and of realistic urban design visions that might stimulate the electorate’s imagination. This paper seeks to quantify the capacities for compact growth and to use these measures as frameworks for understanding the urban design opportunities embodied in such responses to climate change. Using a combination of GIS mapping and digital modeling tools, scenarios based on transit-related planning principles and urban design criteria are explored as a basis for understanding resident responses. The key finding of this study is that Melbourne does not need a particularly radical change to its built form in order to achieve substantial increases in density. Modest height limits of 4-5 storeys along transit lines are easily enough to accommodate the projected growth. If height controls can be properly enforced then this can be done democratically and without an electoral backlash. The political paranoia that paralyzes implementation of Melbourne 2030 is unnecessary.